A visitor to De Bortoli cellar door in Australia's Yarra Valley was sampling the Windy Peak Sauvignon Blanc and listening to a few descriptors from the woman behind the counter. 'You might find, in addition to the lemon and lime overtones, some notes of asparagus, grass and even green peas,' she explained. The visitor paused for a moment and put down his tasting glass. 'When do they put the peas in?' he asked. Cut to an exam paper in which a local undergraduate studying hotel management was asked to describe the nose of a heavily oaked cabernet sauvignon. 'This wine smells strongly of chocolate and coffee,' he wrote. So far so good - clearly he had been listening in class and working on his ability to pick up aromas. 'Therefore I conclude that the wine is made from chocolate and coffee.' Ah. Does talking about - or even writing about - wine serve to alienate, rather than inform? What do we really make of descriptions (all real examples from wine journalism) such as 'great focus', 'grippy tannin', of fruit that 'stacks up nicely' and this 'soft core of cassis'. Then there are the technical terms like structure, texture, length and balance. In fact, wine is not alone in having its own dedicated vocabulary. In approaching almost every subject, from 18th-century choral works to American football, a delicate web of linguistic nuance has to be utilised. This is almost akin to a dialect, an accent, a patois. We need to embrace wine language, however pretentious we might initially find it, for two principal reasons. One is to help us in our own pursuit of wine knowledge. For example, by developing the capability to catch, and then classify, diverse aromas, we immediately begin to categorise which wines are better than others, or more to our own taste, even before swallowing a single drop. If we understand that wines have different textures, and are experienced in different ways in different parts of the mouth, our ability to pick a match for tonight's dinner will have been massively enhanced. The second reason is simply so that we are able to communicate about wine with others - or able to read more intelligently about wine - and thus to learn from those more expert than ourselves. Listen to the words of an experienced taster and the process actually serves to de-mystify wine. So that's what we mean by 'silky texture'; so that's the aroma people refer to as 'cigar box'; so that's what a 'maderised' wine smells like - send it back immediately! The irony is that once wine vernacular has been conquered and embraced, and the world of wine correspondingly uncorked, one no longer needs to employ the language. One just knows. But back to those peas. Let's be thankful our cellar door visitor was tasting a new world sauvignon blanc and not one from the Loire in France. The classic aroma definition for these is 'cat's piss on a gooseberry bush'. firstname.lastname@example.org Debra Meiburg will return to her column at the end of June after completing her Master of Wine studies.